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Government The Courts Transportation United States

US Government Fights To Not Explain No-Fly List Selection Process 248

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-can-trust-us dept.
An anonymous reader writes: On August 6, U.S. District Judge Anthony Trenga ordered the federal government to "explain why the government places U.S. citizens who haven't been convicted of any violent crimes on its no-fly database." Unsurprisingly, the federal government objected to the order, once more claiming that to divulge their no-fly list criteria would expose state secrets and thus pose a national security threat. When the judge said he would read the material privately, the government insisted that reading the material "would not assist the Court in deciding the pending Motion to Dismiss (PDF) because it is not an appropriate means to test the scope of the assertion of the State Secrets privilege." The federal government has until September 7 to comply with the judge's order unless the judge is swayed by the government's objection.
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US Government Fights To Not Explain No-Fly List Selection Process

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  • It'd be nice... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by i kan reed (749298) on Friday August 29, 2014 @08:32AM (#47783779) Homepage Journal

    If somehow we could avoid letting the worst ideas just kinda slide.

    There's not a lick of evidence that no-fly has helped anyone, but we need to insist its policies not face even the slightest judicial review. Asshole libertarians tend identify me as an authoritarian because I state the obvious vis a vis their fundamental beliefs, but this kind of deprivation without due process is still completely nuts.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 29, 2014 @08:42AM (#47783855)

      But, but , but Mr. Obama is Mr. Transparency.

      He said so.

      • Re:It'd be nice... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by kilfarsnar (561956) on Friday August 29, 2014 @10:15AM (#47784629)

        But, but , but Mr. Obama is Mr. Transparency.

        He said so.

        One of the things President Obama has done for this country is to show us that whether the Republicans or Democrats are in office, we get a lot of the same policies. Not identical, but most of the foreign policy, national security, surveillance and domestic security policies are the same between the parties. Some choice!

    • Re:It'd be nice... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by GeekWithAKnife (2717871) on Friday August 29, 2014 @09:02AM (#47784023)

      Dear sir,

      You are quite wrong. There is a mountain of evidence that so called "no-fly" lists have prevent unspeakable acts of terrorism and violence.

      It is however important to note that to divulge the details of said evidence will expose state secret and thus constitute a threat to national security.

      To explain; in order to protect you, the national citizen we have to keep this secret from you as telling you how we do things can put you at risk. Given that you can now clearly see how you yourself put your own well-being at risk your personal freedoms should in fact be revoked for your protection.

      A secret court that we cannot tell you about already ruled in our favor. All your rights are belong to us.

      Sincerely,

      Your democratically elected and chosen government.
    • Re:It'd be nice... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Applehu Akbar (2968043) on Friday August 29, 2014 @10:49AM (#47784861)

      At the very least, there needs to be a place on the TSA website where a person can check to see whether he is on the list. Now that every travel arrangement is non-refundable, we need to know this before we get to the departing airport.

    • logical response from the bench would be to enjoin the no-fly list.

      that means shit-can it, for folks who haven't hung around the courthouse steps

    • but....but....if you don't like it, just buy your own planet and make your own rules. The MARKET solves everything ;)
    • by green1 (322787)

      Show me a libertarian that thinks the government making secret lists of people not allowed to participate in otherwise legal business transactions is a good idea... I'm not sure how libertarianism is the enemy here, it seems that secret government lists removing people's freedoms would be the opposite of libertarianism. Or are you actually trying to argue that a secret government list with zero oversight is a good idea?

    • The problem as you describe it is accurate, only it's got nothing to do with 'libertarians', asshole or otherwise.
      If you don't see what is has got to do with, next time you' ll be modded troll, just like you try so hard to be.

  • by Virtucon (127420) on Friday August 29, 2014 @08:38AM (#47783815)

    It's time to start disassembling this expensive fraud. Millions of travelers are inconvenienced by these fraudulent necessities that have been installed since the Patriot Act was passed. That Act will go down in American history as the single, most damaging, threat to liberty in this country. Billions spent, law abiding people treated like criminals without due process. It truly makes me ashamed and angry at DC and the retards that reside there.

    • That Act will go down in American history as the single, most damaging, assault on liberty in this country.

      • by Smauler (915644)

        I wasn't going to go all grammar nazi.... but since it was repeated.

        It's not "the single, most damaging, thing", it's "the single most damaging thing".

    • Agreed. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Moof123 (1292134) on Friday August 29, 2014 @10:46AM (#47784833)

      The erosion of our liberties and freedoms under the Patriot Act have been beyond shameful. We backed that up with blunders like GITMO. I am not sure where it ends, but it has played out as if the playbook was right from an Orwell novel.

      It would also be nice if we put more effort into being a likeable country rather than spending so much time, effort, money, and political capital keeping our enemies at bay and out allies paid off. If we would stop meddling in everyone else's affairs we might not have so many people and groups trying to attack us in the first place. It would take decades, as we have meddled for quite a while in quite a lot of places. But long term, it would be nice to have the moral high ground again.

    • That Act will go down in American history as the single, most damaging, threat to liberty in this country.

      Senator McCarthy may have an objection to this.

    • Billions spent, law abiding people treated like criminals without due process

      And where exactly do you think it's spelled out plainly that the government may not deprive you of liberty without due process of law?

      Is there something relevant in 2014 that says this? And by relevant, I mean something that the People are willing to fight to protect?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 29, 2014 @08:43AM (#47783863)

    A certain judge will be placed on the no-fly list on Sept 6.

  • by nimbius (983462) on Friday August 29, 2014 @08:48AM (#47783895) Homepage
    To divulge this information would let loose the fact that the list is populated arbitrarily in most cases, and in others using illegal domestic spying practices currently being swept under the rug by the administration and the NSA. More importantly it would further confirm the TSA and most of homeland security as nothing more than security theatre and lemon socialism for defense contractors. Further, it would serve also to undermine more than a decade of highly controversial foreign and domestic policy in the wake of the september 11th attacks.

    Another way to approach this retiscence from the government is in terms of employment and consumer confidence, as thats really all a capitalist government is focused on when it legislates. for those who insist it would help to dismantle the department of homeland security, its not that simple or even prudent to do. closing a 60 billion dollar a year facility would instantly land a quarter of a million americans unemployed as well as trigger staff cuts in military agencies and various contractors across the board. the long story short: as capitalism employs outsourcing and offshoring in its advancing race to the bottom, it becomes increasingly incapable of providing gainful employment for anyone and in turn government programs like this must be protected, even if they do very little else but harass the public and chase their tail. the big state secret is that the United States can hardly keep the government open, lags the world in education, and leads the world in incarceration
    • closing a 60 billion dollar a year facility would instantly land a quarter of a million americans unemployed

      We've got a crapload of roads and bridges that need to be redone, and the deficit is shrinking at a staggering rate. The government has been able to borrow money at a NEGATIVE effective APR since for about six years, but has been blocked from doing so.

      I say we give the 60 billion to infrastructure, which will employ a lot more than a quarter of a million people in the long run. Instead, we rely on an

    • Ah, the old, If this secret would be revlealed then the populace would rise up, idea.

      Of course most people won't care. I don't. I know what they are doing and why. I wouldn't do things exactly as they are, but I'm not that upset over what they are doing to activley try and change anything.

  • Wait what? (Score:5, Informative)

    by lq_x_pl (822011) on Friday August 29, 2014 @08:48AM (#47783901)
    "... that reading the material "would not assist the Court in deciding the pending Motion to Dismiss (PDF) because it is not an appropriate means to test the scope of the assertion of the State Secrets privilege.""
    Actually, that is precisely what letting the judge read the criteria would do.
    I suspect that the real problem is that the criteria used for being added to the No-Fly list are overbroad and arbitrary. The secret here is that the No-Fly list is a farce.
    • "The secret here is that the No-Fly list is a farce."

      It is worse than a farce, as it has become a weapon to illegally coerce cooperation among certain ethnic and religious groups. Turn state's evidence, or you might end up on the list and not be able to ever visit your family member's again. How can we as a "freedom loving American's" tolerate any citizen being strong-armed like this?! Being inaccurate at times would be forgiven by most (especially if there was a plausible challenge and review path), bu

  • THIS (Score:5, Insightful)

    by korbulon (2792438) on Friday August 29, 2014 @08:49AM (#47783907)

    is one of the many reasons why I think there really is no discernible difference between Republicans and Democrats. Two sides of the same d2. I kinda fooled myself into thinking the Dems would be different after 8 years of W. But we just see more of the same. Same abuse of powers, same sense of entitlement and executive privilege, same (or expanded) levels of invasive surveillance, same police-state mentality.

    The federal government has become an insatiable monstrosity of bureaucratic machinery that would have defied even the imagination of Kafka, demanding accountability and transparency from all (achieving such ends at gunpoint or through a wiretap), while offering none itself.

    The great insight of the founding fathers was recognizing a need for checks and balances, and creating a theoretical system to prevent excesses of the executive (or the other branches). The problem with this nice idea is that in the real world powerful people tend to curry favor among themselves, where Supreme Court justices go on duck hunting trips with the Vice President and suchlike: the branches of government are just three sides of the same d3.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The federal government has become an insatiable monstrosity of bureaucratic machinery that would have defied even the imagination of Kafka, demanding accountability and transparency from all (achieving such ends at gunpoint or through a wiretap), while offering none itself.

      I propose the term "monstrosarchy"

  • by raymorris (2726007) on Friday August 29, 2014 @08:52AM (#47783927)

    When this topic came up a few weeks ago here on Slashdot, I did a bit of research and found out that the "no fly list" would be better named the "no entry list", as the people are not allowed to enter or leave the country on a plane - they can fly within the country if they wish. It is a list of a few hundred citizens and a few thousand foreign nationals not allowed to fly into or out of the country. The Terrorist Watch List, on the other hand, has MILLIONS of people listed, mostly US citizens.

    I'm far more concerned about the government watching millions of it's own people, treating them potential terrorists, than I am about them listing a few thousand foreign actors who aren't allowed to enter the US.

  • by gurps_npc (621217) on Friday August 29, 2014 @08:57AM (#47783965) Homepage
    I remember there was this case where a woman in the US on an education visa was put on the list, allowed to fly out of the US, then not allowed to fly back in next september. She had not finished her studies.

    She sued, and called her mother as a witness. Her mother was then put on the list and not allowed back in. The US denied doing this, but the airline said that was why she was not allowed to board.

    Eventually they discovered that the original reason the daughter was put on the no fly list was that someone interviewing her had checked the wrong box on a form.

    She won her law suit, and the US had to remove her from the list. This was after years of having her education interrupted.

    Basically, the no fly list is a poorly managed piece of crap that they are ashamed to admit they usually have no idea why anyone is on the list.

    • by Lothsahn (221388)
      It sounds like you're referring to Dr. Ibrahim.

      http://papersplease.org/wp/201... [papersplease.org]

      Also, Alstrup did not rule that she had to be removed from the list. The ruling only meant that they had to inform her whether she was still on the list and correct the clerical error from all databases which originally put her on the list. Nothing stops the government from putting her back on the list for other reasons. It also provided her with the ability to apply for a waiver for her visa denial.

      See:
      http://www.w [wired.com]
  • by fey000 (1374173) on Friday August 29, 2014 @09:01AM (#47784013)

    1. Does the subject wear a turban? If yes, add to list. If no, continue.
    2. Can you pronounce the subject's name? If no, add to list, if yes, continue.
    3. Has subject slept with your significant other or ex? If yes, add to list, if no, continue.
    4. Flip a coin. If heads, add to list, if tails, continue.
    5. Do you want the subject on the list? If yes, add to list, if no, arrest subject for loitering and go to lunch.

  • working tirelessly to empower itself, subjugate your rights, and make the Deep State that much deeper. All in the name of "national security" of course.
  • by mbone (558574) on Friday August 29, 2014 @09:06AM (#47784067)

    I would bet serious money that the No Fly List results from inputs from a variety of different agencies applying different and inconsistent rules, or in some cases maybe no rules at all.

  • and thus pose a national security threat

    ...and thus expose a national security threat

    FTFTFF (Fixed That for the Fucking Fascists)

  • by Joe Gillian (3683399) on Friday August 29, 2014 @09:16AM (#47784157)

    In a sub-basement of the Nebraska Avenue Complex, the headquarters of the Department of Homeland Security, sit a couple of men staring at a computer screen and talking to each other in heavily accented English. The screen fades to white for a fraction of a second as it refreshes, the image changing from a young white woman to a man of Middle Eastern descent - a dentist in Seattle, but these men would never think to look that up. One of the men, brown-haired with an average build, his arms and legs containing a bit of muscle from his time at what he proudly refers to as "Fort Buttfuck, Texas" but his slight gut telling the real story of years spent "analyzing" various persons of interest and inhaling massive lunches purchased on the government's dime turns to his friend, a slightly shorter man from a small town in Oklahoma who is missing one of his front teeth. Unlike his friend, he's purely lean, having spent a good chunk of his taxpayer-funded salary on an expensive gym in Maryland - one that's popular with some of the senators when they come down to Washington to do business.

    "Hey Earl," the first man says, "You reckon this guy's a terrorist?" he asks, pronouncing "terrorist" as "turrorist".

    "I dunno, Clete, I reckon he might be," the second man replies. "Think we should ask the NSA for some intel?"

    Clete thinks for a moment. "Reckon we 'oughta. I'll make the call."

    Clete reaches to his left, past a hill of Taco Bell wrappers, and picks up a single throwing dart from a beer can he'd cut in half one day when business had been slower. Just to the the right of the screen (but far enough away that the screen won't be hit, because Earl caught hell from their supervisor after he put a dart through the last screen) with a clear line of sight to Clete's chair, a dartboard hangs from a nail in the wall. A printed-out sign (Comic Sans, of course) above it reads "NSA". An identical dartboard, with an identical sign, hangs on the left of the screen for Earl's use.

    With a deep inhale, Clete tenses his arm, letting it go as he exhales. The dart sails across the room and embeds itself in the wall half an inch from the rim of the dartboard. Clete could've sworn he had better aim than this - after five years of experience, he was pretty good at darts - but one look at Mt. Bud (Earl's pet name for the pile of empty beer cans they tossed into a corner for the janitors to clean up. Clete had always reckoned that they were illegals, but they picked up the beer cans well enough.) told him he'd probably had one or two too many. "Fuckin' shit!" Clete cried in anger. Earl was beating him by 10 points now, which meant Clete would be paying for the drinks after work. "Yeah Earl, reckon he's a turrorist."

    Earl dutifully pulls out a small remote control, one that has only two buttons - the red button and the green button. Green means go, red means No-Fly list. He presses the red button, and a large red circle with a cross through it, the standard "NO" sign, appears over the face on the screen. There's a whirring from the back of the room as the computer prints out the paperwork to add the dentist from Seattle, who had never had any terrorist affiliations in his life, to the No-Fly list, complete with an automated version of Clete's hastily-scrawled signature at the bottom, with Earl's underneath as a witness. The image on screen changes to another photo, this one of a teenager. Earl takes a long pull from his beer. He's got this one.

  • by msk (6205) on Friday August 29, 2014 @09:18AM (#47784183)

    It's long past time that federal judges start jailing these bureaucrats for contempt for not answering simple questions about the no-fly list.

    • by Cardoor (3488091)
      good luck with that.
    • by Moof123 (1292134)

      What are these "accountability" and "rule of law" things you speak of?

    • The federal judiciary has no enforcement powers those fall under the executive. Many state's have marshals that report to the courts and can enforce their orders.

    • It's long past time that federal judges start jailing these bureaucrats for contempt for not answering simple questions about the no-fly list.

      Your mistake is assuming that the judges are interested in rule of law and justice, rather than perpetuation of the power of the State, and by extension their cushy jobs, pensions, and really nice cars and houses. When the first excuses the latter, you'll find synchronicity, but not by the converse. Otherwise a simple constitutional challenge would not be thrown out

  • by vortex2.71 (802986) on Friday August 29, 2014 @10:35AM (#47784777)

    This is all such a joke and epitomizes the cat and mouse game that the executive office likes to play. Any idiot can see that the clear solution is to give all supreme court justices and several federal appeals court justices in each district Q clearances to review any top secret information pertinent to the cases that they are hearing. This would allow for proper judicial review rather than trample on the constitution's system of checks and balances. Further, ALL state senators should be given Q clearances also, so that they can properly perform legislative action. When you consider the number of people working at FBI, CIA, national labs, etc, adding 50 judges and 100 senators doesn't make much difference. If people were serious about democracy, this would have happened years ago.

  • Will get you put on the No-Fly List.
  • I'm pretty sure that regardless of what the court or this judge feels, the government will do whatever the heck it wants. And in the end, how would anyone force the US government to comply with the court order?
  • We have to fuck with the villagers in order to save them.

  • Sweatpants. That's how you get put on the no-fly list.

  • So the government is basically conceding for this to fail.

  • What would happen if the executive branch (which is supposed to enforce the law) simply refused to comply with a judicial order? Can someone be held in contempt? Who would take on the role of enforcing the judicial order (in terms of compelling the action or executing punishment)?

  • If so, you're idiots. Show me where he asked for the resignation of everyone appointed by Bush and Cheney.

    And tell me that there aren't folks who work for the government who wouldn't like to hurt him.

    As a couple of datapoints, 10-12 years ago, in the mainstream press, were two stories, not many months apart: first, Dem. Congressman David Thomas was prevented from flying, because his name was on the no-fly list, and it took *him* two weeks to get it off.

    How many folks do *you* know named David Thomas... or i

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